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Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older [Review]

Title: Shadowshaper
Author(s): Daniel José Older
Edition: Audio, 7 hours 21 minutes/6 discs
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Publication Date: November 1, 2015
Source: Library
Buy: Amazon - Barnes & Noble - Book Depository


Sierra Santiago planned to have an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears... Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.

With the help of a mysterious fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one -- and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family's past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for herself and generations to come.

Full of a joyful, defiant spirit and writing as luscious as a Brooklyn summer night, Shadowshaper marks the YA debut of a brilliant new storyteller.

My Opinion

If you have been aching for a great supernatural book with kick-ass Latinx and Black characters, full of family, danger, and love, then look no further because Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older has it all!

The first thing, and maybe this was even more apparent because I was listening to the audiobook, was the voice within this book is amazing.  Each character is distinct, and while maybe not wholly explored, rounded in presentation.  Within the voice comes each character's heritage.  Both Latinx and Black culture is prevalent, with a multitude of different countries represented.  Sierra, Robbie, and their friends all come from different families, customs, and beliefs, and this is reflected in their speech, clothes, and attitude.  I felt like I was in their slice of Brooklyn, one which I've never experienced before.

Older also didn't hesitate to discuss the differences between minorities either.  While it wasn't an especially big part of the book, the prejudices that do exsit between White, Latinx, and Black cultures were mentioned.  While I am in no way an expert on this subject, it made the events of the story more believable because it is set in a real society rather than a perfect one.  Also Sierra's group of friends feels even tighter for overcoming those prejudices and assumptions that color everyone's perception.

So with that, this book would've been just a fantastic contemporary exploring the dynamics and relationships of the neighborhood, and Sierra's crew.  But of course, there was magic to be had, and BOOM it turns into Urban Fantasy!  Shadowshaping is very unique.  It reminds me of a religion, and feels very dogmatic and synced into the machismo that can exist in Latinx culture. By the time Sierra learns about shadowshaping and her place within that heritage, the magic is dying, and it is up to Sierra, a girl never meant to be a shadowshaper, to save it.  

The mix of art and magic is very powerful, not only in the book, but in life.  Most artists, be it writers, painters, or musicians, work from the soul.  Shadowshaping takes that to another level, actually harnessing the souls of one's ancestors into the artwork to make it come alive.  Also the aspect that the medium of the drawing makes the shaping more powerful is too cool (for instance, chalk is easily destroyed, while paint is stronger).  It's beautiful, and a gift I wish was real (cause I'd want to learn PRONTO)!

The pacing is fantastic, the mystery is not easily guessed, and the ending leaves you needing more!  Luckily, there is a sequel coming out this September (Shadowhouse Fall) so you don't have to wait too long (unless of course you read it when it first came out, then you did have to wait a bit)!  Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older is one of my favorite 2017 reads, and one you don't want to miss!

Final Rating



Interview with Daniel José Older

1 comment:

  1. I was surprised to see this one nominated for our high school readers' choice award in Illinois. I hadn't seen much about it. I'm glad it's a good one!


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